SF is full of stories of global, or interplanetary, or even interstellar governments. Government just like today, except vastly larger.

But it’s not going to happen in real life.

Government follows production. When production is centralized, as it was in the industrial era, government can collect much of that centralized wealth in taxes, and use it to expand into a big, centralized government. And it can justify those acts by claiming that big, centralized production needs a big, centralized government to make it efficient.

And the politicians have a point. If you want your country to be wealthy in a world of big, centralized production, you don’t want to be constantly dealing with localized regulations that get in the way.

So you’re about as likely to see a small, libertarian government in an industrial society as you are an ice cube in volcanic lava. All the incentives are pushing against that, and it would take a herculean opposition to prevent it.

At which point, your neighbours with their big-government, big-business economy would probably invade and take you over.

But that’s rapidly coming to an end. 3D printing, cheap CNC and similar technologies mean more and more of the things we use are going to be made locally, many of them at home. The kinds of technologies we have to develop to survive in space are going to make small communities self-sufficient on Earth, too.

And then, why would they want to be told what to do by governments hundreds or thousands of miles away? What would they gain from a big government when pretty much everything they encounter is made or grown within a few miles of where they live?

So the natural incentives in the future are for small, localized government, or no government at all. A single family building a home from an asteroid aren’t going to want anyone telling them what to do, and a small tribe doing the same aren’t going to want anyone outside the tribe telling them what to do.

Now, one obvious counterargument is that those who have access to the most resources are going to use them to build giant robot armies to enslave the rest. But that’s not going to work well in space, where the distances will make any kind of warfare rather difficult. On Earth, perhaps, but if you have a giant robot army, you don’t need to enslave anyone. You wouldn’t be invading their territory to govern them, you’d be invading it to kill them and steal their resources.

And, of course, those who have power will fight this trend tooth-and-nail. We’re already seeing this with the ever-increasing calls to censor the Internet, and the open censorship of their users by many of the big Internet businesses who only exist in their current form because of a cosy co-dependency with those in power.

Some government will ban all innovation and go full North Korea on their citizens, even as North Korea is going the other way. If a government can force people to live in an industrial society even while their neighbours are decentralizing through localized manufacturing, it could continue to exist for some time. But, as soon as that country becomes a problem, their more advanced neighbours will come in and free it from its backward government.

So, my forecast would be:

  1. Big government will become less and less useful and more and more an impediment to technological innovation. Instead of helping the country become wealthy, as it did in the distant past, it will help the country become poor.
  2. Many governments will try to ban new manufacturing technologies that lead to the decentralization of production. But they’ll eventually fail, because nations which do that will become technological backwaters.
  3. Even as we see a resurgence of nationalism around the world, it’s unlikely that it will become the norm before tribalism takes over. If there’s a planetary government on Mars, it will only last until the second colony is built.
  4. Earth will be a death-trap, as those who want its resources for the automated production of weapons will just take them, and not care whose they were before. The kind of person who would care won’t be building a giant robot army to steal your stuff.
  5. As we spread out across the galaxy, centralized government will become even less viable as the distances involved will make such control impossible. Maybe a government on Earth could control Alpha Centauri with an eight-year communication round-trip. But a star fifty light years away? A hundred? A thousand? How can you control a colony when communication of orders from the central government takes longer than the entire lifespan of the Roman Empire?

Of course, yes, I still do have big governments in some of my stories. Just because something seems inevitable in the real world doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for a sci-fi story. But those stories also generally include faster-than-light travel and other technologies that I don’t really believe in either.

As an SF writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about the future and how it may work. And, I have to admit, the more I think about it, the harder it is to see what’s coming.

But, lately, the left have come up with a wonderful new idea: Universal Basic Income.

Aka ‘free money for doing nothing’. So not really that new or that wonderful.

The theory goes like this. AI and automation are about to make most jobs obsolete, which means that most people won’t have an income, which means they won’t be able to buy anything, which means that business owners won’t be able to make any money, which means we must tax the businesses to give money to the unemployed so they can buy stuff from those businesses and keep them in business.

It doesn’t take very long to see why this is nonsense. Sure, many big business owners are all in favour of UBI. But that’s because they see it as a free money handout, and don’t expect to be the ones paying for it.

Let’s look at what happens when they do have to pay for it:

I have $1,000 as a business owner. I give it to the government in tax. They take their cut and hand $900 on to the unemployed. I sell them $900 of products, and make $450 of profit.

So, I had $1,000. Thanks to the wonders of UBI, I now have $450.

So why wouldn’t I have just closed down the business instead, and kept the $1,000 I had?

Economically, it makes no sense. So the left have to resort to their usual standby: violence. Pay them money, they say, or they’ll riot and murder the rich.

Of course, that doesn’t work either, because the rich will be living in their bunkers in New Zealand, and will be unaffected by the violence. The rioters will burn down their cities and then… well, die, presumably.

A hundred years ago, that prospect would have terrified the rich, because they needed those people to work in their factories to produce products to sell. But if all the factories are automated, the rich have no reason to care. In fact, they’d probably prefer to see the now economically worthless poor kill each other, so there’ll be more resources available to the rich.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Automation may progress slower than expected, and the welfare state may become UBI at some point. Or the rich may decide it’s better to keep the masses occupied with bread and circuses until they’re ready to release a killer virus or robot army to wipe them out.

But I can’t see any way it’s going to be more than a short-term situation. In a world where the rich can have robots and automated factories to dig up resources and turn them into useful stuff, they’re not likely to want to waste those resources on people who give them nothing in return.

And, if it does happen, it will rapidly become a means of social control. Complain about the government? No UBI for you.

I have incorporated it to a limited extent in the new rewrite of Rebellion, but that’s precisely what it is: a way to control the chavs of England, so long as they still exist.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42629529

Apparently the British Army has a recruiting problem (kids don’t want to be sent to Afghanistan to kill people who’ve never done anything to them), so the solution is to become all huggy-fluffy.

You just couldn’t make this up.

I have a story coming out in a new anthology tomorrow:
http://www.alasdairshaw.co.uk/thenewcomer/guardian.php

Funny, isn’t it? The Middle East is going to Hell, and all the mass media are interested in are Climate Change and ‘Muh Russia!’

After the Apocalypse, no-one is going to want to admit to having been part of the 21st century mass media.

I guess this is what you get for running Windows on computers that control a lot of money:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-38063142

Running Windows on ATMs was always an insane decision, but the manager who made it probably retired long ago.

Pick up some free horror books for Halloween, including Monster Maelstrom, a Halloween anthology which includes one of my flash fiction stories:

http://www.melaniekarsak.com/p/promotion.html

My Windows PC locked up again at the weekend. Followed by another 12+ hour RAID rebuild. So I’m done with it.

I waited for the rebuild, split the mirror, then installed SyncToy, some little Microsoft program that will automatically sync directories, like rsync on Linux, but with a GUI. It has to be run manually (or scheduled to run periodically in the background), but it seems far more robust than Windows RAID. And, even if one disk dies, at least I have a recent backup on the second, rather than an unreadable broken RAID.

I’m just appalled to see that a bloated multi-billion-dollar corporation can’t even get something as simple as RAID mirroring to work competently.

President of the Philippines calls the President of America a “son of a whore”, and says they’ll be “wallowing in the mud like pigs” if the President of America disrespects him.

President of America, supposedly the most powerful man in the world, gets in a huff and goes to Korea instead.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-37281821

Can anyone imagine that happening with a real President, like Reagan? Back then, the Philippines cared what America thought about it. Apparently not any more.

The Chinese leaders must be laughing their ass off.

What moron decided to switch a LAPTOP screen to portrait mode with an arcane key combination? Particularly one that’s RIGHT NEXT TO CTRL+ALT+DEL?

What possible reason I would have to switch a laptop to portrait mode, when the freaking keyboard is attached to the bottom of the screen? All it achieves is to leave people wondering ‘WTF just happened?’ and trying to figure out how to use the mouse sideways so they can open a web browser to return the screen to the right damn orientation.

Hint for anyone who found this through Google: its CTRL+ALT+Arrow keys.

I so hate the tabletization of computing. And I absolutely despise Windows 10. There’s a reason our last remaining Windows machines run XP and Windows 7.

When I ran out of space on the main drive of my Windows video editing machine, I thought it was probably time I should install a RAID to put the video files on, so I wouldn’t lose them if the disk failed. I bought two 4TB drives, set them up as software RAID, and off it went.

Problem is, Windows software RAID is absolutely worthless.

In Linux, if there’s a power failure, or the machine locks up, or something that requires the machine to shut down unexpectedly, the RAID is usually OK. If the OS was actively writing to the disk, it will probably have to resync, but otherwise it’s already synced and continues as normal.

But not in Windows.

Microsoft decided that any kind of unexpected shutdown would make the RAID resync. Doesn’t matter that nothing has written to it for six hours, if it wasn’t cleanly shut down, you’re SOL.

And, no, when it starts resyncing, it won’t remember where it got to last time and continue after you reboot. Every single time you boot with an unsynced RAID, it starts over from scratch, even though it can’t possibly complete unless you’re going to leave the machine on all day.

So, any kind of power outage… and it’s nine hours waiting for the RAID to resync. Any kind of OS lockup… and it’s nine hours waiting for the RAID to resync. Given we don’t have the best power here, and Windows locks up now and again, the RAID in my machine has been unsynced far more often than it’s been synced. I get a power outage on Wednesday, and I have to leave it to the weekend

So that’s it for RAID on Windows. I’m scrapping the whole idea and buying a NAS running a real OS that I can just back everything up to manually.

WTF were Microsoft thinking when they designed this piece of crap?

Finally arrived only a bit over a month late. So far, it looks just like Android 5.1, except for a minimal set of permissions options for each app.

And the apps still seem to ask for just about every permission available.

So, rumour has it that anyone who installed the 5.1.1 update on their Nexus 7 is now unable to install Android 6.0, because Google pushed it without considering that they hadn’t pushed a version of Android 6.0 that was compatible with the updated 5.1.1. Now we have to wait for one that is.

If true… good one, guys. Very smart.

‘Out’ for three weeks… and still no sign of it on my Nexus 7.

Currently getting 400ms ping times to my wi-fi access point, and about 16k/second to my file server over my ‘150Mbps’ wi-fi connection. Plug in an Ethernet cable, and the ping is down to 0.25ms.

Remind me never to buy another laptop with Realtek wi-fi.

Bought one of these to get faster wi-fi, as the ISP wi-fi is only 2.4GHz 54Mbps (and rarely gets close to it). This means I can now use the ISP wi-fi as a ‘guest’ network that can’t access the other computers in the house, while the rest of us connect to the new router.

To avoid problems, I decided to use the same IP subnets on both routers. I assumed the router wouldn’t have any problem handling that, since it does NAT and both subnets are private. Oh, dear.

First time I plugged the Archer C7 into the ISP router, it went and got a DHCP address from the ISP router… and stopped working. No routing, no web page.

Turns out that it can’t handle having both WAN and LAN on overlapping subnets. Worse, when it does that, it resets its own IP address to the default 192.168.0.1, anyone using static IP configuration suddenly finds their gateway has vanished, and anyone trying to connect to the configured IP address finds it’s not there.

But it gets worse. You can’t even disconnect the WAN cable and reboot the router, because it PERMANENTLY changes the IP address back to the default. Before I realized what it was doing, I ended up resetting it to defaults and restoring the configuration backup I’d previously made (you did make a backup, right?)

Other than this peculiarity, which required me to change the IP address of pretty much every device on the LAN, and the fact that it routes private IP addresses in the first place, it seems to be working fine so far.

Spacesuit on barren landscape

Condemned cover

Finishing the first draft of the first book of a new SF adventure series. Should be out November or December, with any luck.

Lesbian Posed As Cancerous Latino Man, Accused of Sexual Assault With Strap On